Fans of the Los Angeles Lakers will know better than most that it helps to have a closer, a guy on your team who can take the ball when the game gets down to the wire, and make plays all by himself to lead his team to victory. With Kobe Bryant still sitting on the sideline recovering from injury, the Lakers really don't have that guy. Memphis does, and it is behind Zach Randolph's dominant fourth quarter that the Memphis Grizzlies were able to eek out a victory in Los Angeles, by the final score of 89-86. Randolph was 5-6 in the final frame, including a moon shot baseline jumper and a 6 foot finger roll against tough Jordan Hill defense. Randolph abused Shawne Williams, and then he abused Pau Gasol, and then he abused Hill, too. Hill's defensive effort on Z-bo in the final minutes was excellent, but it wasn't enough to prevent him from draining shots and leading his team to victory.
This was not a particularly pretty or well-played game (something that tends to happen against the Grizzlies in general), and both team struggled from the field, with both hitting just under 44% of their shots. Memphis was awful from three point range and the Lakers weren't, but Memphis was excellent from the free throw line while the Lakers missed 5 of their 11 attempts in a three point loss. LA was also beat up on the glass, losing the rebounding battle 51-40, and the offensive rebounding battle 10-4. It was a rare off-night for Hill in that regard, as LA's resident garbage man only pulled down 5 boards in 30 minutes.
Another key factor leading to the defeat was another poor showing from the bench. Nick Young was awesome, with 18 points on 14 shots, but he outscored his compatriots 18-12, and nobody else made an impact. Jordan Farmar was particularly poor, with a stretch late in the fourth quarter in which he turned the ball over and then, following a Memphis turnover right back, received the ball for a wide open three in the corner. He left up his follow through arm, watched the shot hit the rim, and slumped his shoulders in despair while his man leaked out in transition for an easy score. Farmar was one of three Lakers (along with Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson) who failed to score, and the Lakers are not a team with enough overall talent to be able to carry that much dead weight on any given night. Too many poor performances, and not even a spectacular outing from Jodie Meeks (25 points on 16 shots, 5-9 from 3) could save the Lakers from losing another home game to another bad team (at least according to the current season's performances).
In the end, it all came down to that fourth quarter, and how the Grizzlies were able to execute down the stretch while the Lakers were not. And by the Grizzlies, I mean Zach Randolph. Tonight, perhaps more than any other game this season, the Los Angeles Lakers missed their star. Memphis did not, and that was the difference in the game.